Portugal: a short-lived upturn

Portugal: a short-lived upturn

“European Micro” looks at a social phenomenon today in Portugal, the theft of food in hypermarkets. Families with young children and elderly people cannot feed their children or live off their pensions: this is what statistics from the Portuguese supermarket industry reveal.

Today’s European Micro is dedicated to Portugal, with Ana Navarro Pedro, Portuguese journalist and correspondent in Paris. A social phenomenon in Portugal today: the theft of food in hypermarkets.

franceinfo: People think it’s young people who steal, but no, it’s elderly people and couples with children?

Ana Navarro Pedro: Exactly. These are statistics that come to us from the management of the Portuguese large-scale distribution companies, and it is the president of this organization who says: “These people steal to eat”. And they are old people, who can no longer live on their pension. Or they are couples, people, parents who can no longer feed their children. These thefts have been recorded, and we know what was stolen, when the people were caught, and it was basic food, mainly milk, and cans of tuna.

And that’s why we saw in the French press all these images that shocked a lot here. Tuna cans that are now in plastic locks, because businesses also have to defend themselves, obviously. We don’t steal very important things and a large part of these thefts are not reported to the police.

You also told me an anecdote, sometimes when people were caught, it was the policeman who paid…

It’s an anecdote that dates back to the great subprime crisis of 2011. When people got caught stealing basic food items, the cops would come. Then they would say, that’s how much, pay, give the person who had stolen a soap and tell them: “Now go feed your children”.

Another social phenomenon in Portugal is the revision of the housing leases…

Yes, housing, tenants, this is a measure that the government, nor anyone, had anticipated. In the context of this inflation and price increase, one of the measures the government took was to freeze the increase in rents at 2%, with compensation for the owners. Well, a lot of landlords took advantage of this situation to break the leases. It’s not like France. In France, you have a lot of protections for tenants, not in Portugal, not in the rest of Europe for that matter.

In Portugal, they change your lease like that?

They simply break it, put an end to it, and present a new lease to the tenants who are there, with an extremely high rent price, which people cannot pay. There are currently 800 families threatened with eviction in Lisbon alone. According to the associations that help people in precarious situations, it seems that this is only the tip of the iceberg. And the most serious thing is that all this is happening after a full year for Portugal, 6.5 points of growth.

Portugal was starting to take off, it was getting better, and all of a sudden, is the country going to fall back?

You know, what happens in Portugal will happen in the rest of Europe. Let’s not have any illusions. Even for very rich countries, even for a country like France, which has a much thicker mattress of social debts than other countries, these problems of inflation, of very high inflation, of recession are going to impact all our economies.

In Portugal, it will be even more serious, because we depend on tourism and exports, on those sectors that will be affected by the current economic situation. And so it is in the next winter, 2023/2024, that we will experience the worst, in Portugal, and most certainly in Europe too, according to all observers.

But for now, Portugal has protected itself with Spain regarding energy in relation to Brussels?

Portugal and Spain have already fought, long before the war in Ukraine, because when we saw that we were going to have a great inflation, they fought to obtain a derogation from the European crisis of electricity rates. This still allows families to hold on. Badly, but to hold it.

So the upturn that began in Portugal is likely to fade?

Growth will not exceed 1.5% next year. Inflation will be very high, unemployment will rise and so we will have a shock. We are used to it, but we will suffer…